Since its inception in the 90s, Invisalign has been the gold standard for clear aligner treatment. Not only did Invisalign pioneer clear aligners to begin with, but they also stayed on top of the game by introducing new features like SmartForce attachments, Invisalign First, Invisalign Express, and much more.
All told, Invisalign treatment is just as powerful as braces, but it skips the hassle of brackets and wires.
But Invisalign is not the only option on the clear aligner scene, though. In the past few years, home teeth aligners have become a popular alternative to the industry’s leader. But if you just looked at photos on Google, it might seem like Invisalign and home teeth aligners aren’t all that different from each other. In a sense, that’s true, but there are also some important differences to consider.
In this guide, we’ll outline the main similarities and differences between Invisalign and home teeth aligners. By the end, you’ll be able to pick the method that best suits your unique smile.
In-Office vs. At-Home Treatments: An Overview
Clear aligner trays are the “secret sauce” of Invisalign and at-home treatments. Each clear aligner is uniquely molded to fit your teeth, exerting gentle, constant force on each tooth. As you wear each aligner for a period of about two weeks, your teeth will gradually shift into their perfect positions.
Clear aligners were designed to be a less-visible alternative to braces, and they’ve definitely succeeded. However, Invisalign and home teeth aligners achieve that success in slightly different ways. We’ll dig into the details in a moment, but here’s a quick glance at the primary ways Invisalign and home aligners differ:
|Price point||Varies depending on provider and case severity, but average falls between $3,000-8,000||Options range between $1,145 and $2,400; same price regardless of severity|
|Average treatment speed||12 to 18 months (average)||6 month average, but ranges between 3 to 11 months|
|Orthodontist involvement||Orthodontist oversees every step of treatment from start to finish, including regular check-ups and adjustments||Treatment is typically designed by an orthodontist (although some companies use dentists), but most companies do not offer extensive orthodontist oversight once the aligners are delivered (Exception: Candid)|
|Treatable cases||Handles almost all cases of dental and skeletal misalignment, from mild to severe||Mild to moderate cosmetic cases only|
Whenever you make a major purchase, you want to know all the pros and cons of each option, and the orthodontic treatment you choose is no exception. We’ve designed this guide to give you all the details you need to make an informed decision for your unique smile. With that in mind, let’s dig into the similarities (keep scrolling for the differences).
Invisalign and home teeth aligner companies use the same basic technology, so it’s no surprise that the two have a lot of things in common. Here are a few treatment areas that will be the same regardless of what company you choose:
- Appearance: Both Invisalign and home aligners look extremely similar…and that’s because they don’t “look” like much of anything. Both are practically invisible once they’re in your mouth.
- How they work: Home aligners and Invisalign use the same general technology: clear aligner trays. Those trays are molded to match your teeth, and when you wear them as prescribed, the plastic exerts gentle, constant force on your teeth, shifting them into the proper positions.
- Wear schedule: Unlike braces, you can remove your aligners with Invisalign and home aligners. That’s helpful for when you want to eat or brush your teeth, but you still have to wear your aligners religiously to achieve good results. With both Invisalign and home aligners, you’ll need to wear your aligners for approximately 22 hours per day.
- Reduced discomfort: Braces are notoriously uncomfortable thanks to brackets and wires cutting into your teeth and gums. Invisalign and home aligners are much more comfortable, since the plastic is relatively smooth against your teeth and gums.
- Safety: The invisibility of clear aligners might sound too good to be true, but thankfully, Invisalign and home aligners both use proven technology to shift your teeth safely and consistently.
- Flexibility: Since you can remove your aligners (ideally for about 22 hours a day), you can work your treatment around your lifestyle. Unlike braces, you can still eat all your favorite foods with clear aligners; brushing and flossing is as simple as ever, too. And if you’ve got an important interview or presentation scheduled, you can pop your aligners so nothing distracts you from your success.
While there are a lot of similarities between Invisalign and home aligners, there are plenty of differences, too. And many of those differences are extremely important—the dividing line between an expensive or pricey option, quick or slow treatment, or the technology needed to treat your smile.
One note before we dive in: these differences are between Invisalign and home aligners in general. If you’re wanting more specific information about how, say, Candid or Byte compare to Invisalign, please check out our company-specific comparison reviews.
With that in mind, here are the main ways Invisalign and home aligners differ:
- Treatable cases: Home teeth aligners are pretty limited in the types of cases they can treat: minor to moderate cosmetic misalignments. More complicated cases require extensive orthodontist oversight, which makes Invisalign a better option. Of course, Invisalign can still handle minor cases, but it really shines when the case is more difficult.
- Office visits: Unlike Invisalign, home aligners don’t require any office visits; once you receive your aligners in the mail, you wear each aligner, never leaving home. For a lot of busy adults, that’s a huge perk. That said, office visits are a necessity for extremely complicated cases.
- Price: Long story short, Invisalign is considerably more expensive than home aligners. Depending on your orthodontist’s fees and the severity of your case, your Invisalign treatment could cost between $3,000 and $8,000. Each home aligner company has its own price point, but they range between $1,145 and $2,400.
- Treatment speed: Invisalign generally lasts about twice as long as treatment with home teeth aligners. That’s partly due to the fact that Invisalign normally handles much tougher cases, so they naturally take longer. Of course, there are always exceptions to that rule. But in general, the average treatment with home aligners lasts 6 months; Invisalign usually falls between 12 to 18 months.
- Attachments: Home aligners are extremely straightforward: clear trays molded to match your teeth. Invisalign uses those same types of aligners, but they also have add-ons, including elastics and their proprietary Smartforce attachments. Those add-ons work in tandem with your aligners to create nuanced, powerful movements.
Which Treatment Is Right For Me?
Honestly, this is not an easy question to answer. That’s because there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a method to straighten your smile: treatment speed, quality, price, and more. Plus, you’ll have your priorities for treatment, too. For example, budget might be the #1 factor for you, but your friend needs the fastest treatment available. Someone else might have a tough overbite that home teeth aligners can’t handle.
You should choose the treatment method that best fits your priorities and your smile. That said, in general, you can opt for Invisalign if your case is complicated. But if you have just minor misalignments to correct, you may be a good candidate for home teeth aligners.
Invisalign and at-home treatment are both good options, but let’s be honest: we can’t say definitively what will be right for your smile. But in general, we think that for most people, at-home aligners get the job done cheaper and faster. That said, Invisalign is a great alternative for really tough cases.
There are a lot of different options on the home aligner scene (the most well-known one being Smile Direct Club). That said, we have two favorites: Byte and Candid. We love them for different reasons, though. Here’s a quick glance at our faves:
Byte is our all-around top pick on the at-home aligner scene. And there’s a lot to love about them: they’re the speediest treatment option (3 months), they have a fantastic Byte-for-Life guarantee, and they pack a lot of value into their treatment kit.
They offer nighttime treatment options, too, allowing you to pick the treatment that best meets your lifestyle.
One of the biggest disadvantages of at-home treatment is the minimal in-person oversight you get. But with Candid, that’s not the case thanks to their Remote Monitoring program. Essentially, you’ll have regular virtual check-ups with your orthodontist using your smartphone and a special imaging device.
For us, that strikes a happy medium between the convenience and affordability of home treatment and the professional assistance of in-office treatment.